10 ways to stay cool this summer (and support an Accion client)

  1. Treat yourself to an ice cream sandwich from Bocaditos de Helado, based out of Miami, FL.

    Bocaditos de Helado are sandwiched between two pieces of homemade yellow cake.

  2. Indulge in a rich bowl of Luca & Bosco Ice Cream, based out of New York, NY.

    Luca & Bosco – (c) Catherine Oddenino

  3. Slurp down a slushie from Kelvin Natural Slush, based out of New York, NY.

    Kelvin Natural Slush

  4. Enjoy a frosty dessert from Helados Donofrio, based out of Miami, FL.
  5. Reminisce about childhood summers with an ice pop from Brewla Bars, based out of New York, NY.

    Brewla Bars

  6. Sip on an bubble tea from Tea Chai Tea, based out of Portland, OR.

    Bubble tea from Tea Chai Te

  7. Drink a Juice, based out of Hawthorne, CA.

    Drink A Juice

  8. Stay fit with Joos, based out of Newton, MA.


  9. Taste the richness of summer with a fresh squeezed juice from Juice Runners, based out of Sonoma County, CA.

    Juice Runners

  10. Join the Kombucha craze with a drink from Kombucha Brooklyn, based in Brooklyn, NY.

    Tart Cherry from Kombucha Brooklyn

Harnessing the skills of young professionals to help business owners

By Fan Liu

Small business owners wear multiple hats —they are experts in their trades, managers, advertisers, legal navigators and accountants, and often times mothers and fathers. In between these thousands of tasks they have to do, they have to also come up with a strategy to grow. That’s why Accion East launched its first-ever MicroConsulting Program.

Accion Microfinance Council Leaders

The leaders of the Accion Microfinance Council

Accion East and its Microfinance Council, a volunteer network that advocates for Accion East, matched volunteers with Accion East-supported business owners based on their needs. The volunteers focused on one achievable project that would lead to growth.  With two volunteers per business owner, they worked over a seven week period to provide the business owner with a deliverable.

At the end of the seven weeks, the Microfinance Council and Accion East’s staff, board members and supporters celebrated the accomplishments of the program participants at the PIMCO office.

As I arrived to PIMCO, each business owner had a table showcasing their business. I tried a cupcake from Kicky’s Kitchen, a samosa from Masala Wala and tried on lotion from House D’Marsh. Also on display were beautiful hand-made leather journals and bags from NadiraBag, bangles and earrings from Crusoe Jewelry and cookie cakes from Fatty Cakes. Then, the volunteer-client pairs gave short presentations on what they achieved together. The high-impact projects and volunteers included:

  • Christie MacKinnon, owner of Kicky’s Kitchen – a boozy cupcake catering

    Kicky's Kitchen cupcakes

    Boozy cupcakes from Kicky’s Kitchen.

  • Problem: Christie was ready to expand her business from catering to retail. But she didn’t know who would sell her boozy cupcakes or cupcake kits.
  • Solution: Her volunteers researched online and retail distributors that would best fit her brand and products. They proposed a plan to distribute her cupcakes through Etsy and Whole Foods.
  • Volunteers: Nanette – Senior Consultant, Ernst & Young; Suhail – Associate, Grant Thornton
  • Roni Mazumdar, owner of Masala Wala, a local Indian restaurant in the Lower East Side.

    Samosas The Masala Wala

    Samosas from The Masala Wala

  • Problem: Roni’s financing system was a shoebox filled with receipts. It literally kept Roni up at night.
  • Solution: The volunteers transferred all finances since inception of the restaurant to QuickBooks. They sifted through receipts, created a chart of accounts and trained staff on how to use the software. Now Roni can sleep a little bit better.
  • Volunteers: Chloe – Healthcare Research Analyst, JP Morgan Chase; Susie – Global TMT Coverage & Advisory, Deutsche Bank
  • Glenroy March, owner of House of D’Marsh, a fashion company that boasts two couture collections and stylist and runway services.

    House of D'Marsh

    Volunteers wear clothing designed by Glenroy.

  • Problem: With his business rapidly growing, Glenroy needed management skills to lead an effective team.
  • Solution: The volunteers created structure for Glenroy’s employees by revising job descriptions and creating an employee manual. They also implemented a system to track employee performance.
  • Volunteers:Linda – Menswear Planning, Macy’s; Ruchika – Senior Business Analyst, CHANEL
  •  Nadira El Khang, owner Nadira Bag, a handmade leather goods retailer. (For Nadira’s business story, please read my previous blog “Make Your Dream Come True”)
  • Problem: Nadira wasn’t sure where to begin. She was growing quickly but lacked infrastructure. She needed a website, studio space and a system for tracking her business finances.
  • Solution: Nadira had found a company to create her website, but the volunteers had identified a website developer that would save her hundreds of dollars each month. The volunteers also found affordable studio space and transferred her finances to Quick Books.
  • Volunteers:David – Attorney, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman;Tina – Associate, Grant Thornton
  • Fattycakes NYC

    #AccionEast cake from FattyCakes

    Jennifer Taylor-Miller, owner of Fatty Cakes, a cookie company specializing in the craziest concoctions you’ve ever tasted.

  • Problem: Jennifer wanted to utilize her social media channels to engage her fans.
  • Solution: The volunteers created a “three-pronged approach”. They formulated a plan to increase followers on all social media channels. They implemented #fattyfridays, a raffle for a free cookie cake and re-envisioned the focus of her blog.
  • Volunteers: Nameeta – Marketing Consultant; Alyssah – Mutual Funds Internal Wholesaler
  • Maya Ahluwalia, owner of Crusoe Jewelry, a maritime-inspired jewelry company.
  • Problem: Maya was on Quick Books, but didn’t know how to use it to create a strategy for growing her business.
  • Solution: The volunteers created a financial model for Maya’s business and taught her how to fully utilize Quick Books to understand her business, like creating a profit and loss statement.
  • Volunteers: Rhema – Director, Corporate Banking, CIBC; Ross –Associate, Futures & OTC Clearing, Bank of America

View more pictures from the celebration event. For more information on the Accion Microfinance Council, follow them on Facebook. Support Accion East by donating at  www.accioneast.org/donate

Finding A Different Angle

Robert, photographer and author of The New Yorkers

City life can be stressful. It is full of people, distractions and pollution. An ambitious newcomer to New York City, Robert was determined to focus on the positive. He started taking pictures around the city as a way to relax and unwind. Almost three decades later, he had compiled images of dancing children, iconic subway cars, beautiful faces and proud buildings, capturing the bold grace and uncanny charm of his city.

Robert decided to share his perspective by publishing his collection of photos. However, publishing a book as an unknown author proved to be exceedingly expensive. He managed to source together enough capital to print eleven hundred copies. The copies sold like wildfire and received rave reviews with critics lauding Robert for his “real” rendition of New York. Robert was ready to sell more. There was just one problem – he needed the capital to do so. With a loan from Accion, Robert was able to do a second print of his critically acclaimed book.TheNewYorkers

You can order a signed copy of his book on his website, http://www.robertherman.com. He will be presenting a free lecture on his book on June 26th at 7pm, at SVA, 136 West 21st Street, Room 418-F, New York, NY.



Life Lessons From Our Mothers

We asked our staff members what was the most important lesson they learned from their mother. We share with you the lessons we received this month from them. Happy Mother’s Day!

  • Be transparent and honest. It’s always the right thing to do, no matter what risks you face. Andrea_MomKnowsBest
  • Treat everyone equally.Erica_MomKnowsBest
  • Be kind and helpful to others. You can easily make someone feel good.Fatiha_MomKnowsBest
  • Being rich in LOVE is more important – and more valuable – than being rich in money.Jennifer_MomKnowsBest
  • It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round. Accept others and celebrate their differences. Kevin_MomKnowsBest
  • Anything worth attaining will take time, patience and working hard.Marco_MomKnowsBest
  • Love and express yourself freely.William_MomKnowsBest
  • Honesty and character can take you anywhere. Yleana_MomKnowsBest

Meet a #WomanInAccion

Lauri has always been the do-it-yourself type.  After she and her husband Matthew brewed their first batch of beer, they received such a positive response that they decided to turn it into a business.

Lauri shows us the face behind Moustache Brewing Copany

Lauri shows us the face behind Moustache Brewing Company

“It’s one thing when your friends tell you it’s good; it’s another when beer connoisseurs are telling you,” explained Lauri.

Two years ago, Lauri and Matthew raised  $31,000 on Kickstarter  to begin brewing beer. They carted kegs of ales, stouts and porters around to festivals and markets. As their popularity grew, so did their sales.

Fast-forward to one week ago.  Lauri opened the new doors of the Moustache Brewing Company to over 200 people waiting 40 minutes in line just to sample their You’ll Shoot Your Rye Out Ale.

Lauri offers this advice to others following in her footsteps: “Be flexible. No matter how much you plan, things are always going to come up.” 

Lauri and Matthew are seeking to grow the business, hire employees and fulfill the growing demand during the busy summer season.

Thanks to all the women entrepreneurs who showed us the face behind their business during March.

Show us the face of your business!

Accionistas pose for their own selife!

Accionistas pose for their own selife!

There are over 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Indeed, over the past 16 years, women-owned enterprises have grown faster than the national average.* In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to put a face to these stats. We’re asking female business owners to celebrate the “face” of their business.

To enter:

  • At the end of March, each participant will be entered into a drawing.  The winner will be prominently featured on our Business Tip of the Month newsletter (with an annual readership of over 20,000 individuals around the country).

Looking forward to putting a “face” on female entrepreneurship in the United States!

Interested in joining our Business Tip of the Month newsletter? Sign up here.

*Data taken from American Express Open’s ‘State of Women-owned Business Report’.

‘Braking’ into the Business

Mary, founder of Panther Brakes

Mary, founder of Panther Brakes

Mary has always been a woman who goes for what she wants. She laughed as she reminisced meeting her husband in Spain on the dance floor. “I knew he was the one.” When the two moved to Miami, it was Mary who took charge of providing for the family by starting Panther Brakes.

In a dusty industrial section of Hialeah, FL, Mary, her husband and two employees worked refurbishing brakes. It took all day to churn out about 20 brake parts. Mary wanted to scale production, but she would need to buy a second rivet machine, paint system and shot blaster.

With an Accion microloan, Mary purchased the necessary equipment needed to produce more brakes in a shorter amount of time. In honor of International Women’s Day, we salute women entrepreneurs like Mary who are leading the charge in a male dominated industry. #WomenInAccion

The Path to Small Business Data Nirvana

“If you can’t measure something, you can’t manage it.” –Peter Drucker

The abundance of data collection software available to small business owners has raised the bar for data analysis. Yet as big data becomes more accessible, the playing field is being leveled and small business owners can access data to enhance their business planning.

Accion and the Midtown Manhattan Small Business Development Center teamed up to host an event with experienced data analysts to provide tips and steps to small business owners. Here are five steps that they shared with us on your path to data nirvana!

  1. Find the resource you need to capture and understand your business’ data

There are countless applications out there to assist you in the management of your business. Many are tailored to specific components of your business, others can capture and manage data more generally. Here are some of the top apps:

 2.  Find a mentor

Find someone who is an expert in your industry or has experience with managing data for small business. Network with other professionals in your industry to gain insight into what worked and didn’t work for them as you navigate your options on apps, e-commerce design and management, sales and client retention, or whatever else you identify as your need.

There are many resources out there for small business owners including the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Program, SCORE, Tory Burch Foundation (for women entrepreneurs), and the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream Program (for food and beverage businesses). There are also Small Business Technology Development Centers in a few locales including New York.

 3. Define Your Business Question

Example Problem:  People visit my website, but don’t buy anything.

Ask the Question: What’s the difference between those who abandon their shopping carts and those who don’t?

Create an Analysis Plan: What do I need to gather from my data in order to solve the problem? Look at page views? Sources of users? Origins of users? These will be called your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

4. Start your data collection

Organize a dashboard to track your progress on the KPIs developed through your data analysis plan. Track clients, sales, product inventory, and whatever else your goals are for improving your business gained through the data. There are a couple dashboard applications and software programs you can use including Qlikview (for data visualization) and Tableau Software (for business intelligence and analytics in the cloud).

5. Incorporate Data Solutions into business planning.

What do you cover when you sit down to plan for your business? Analyzing data regarding your business should be incorporated into your quarterly business reviews. Ensure that you are utilizing the data available to you re-evaluate the questions you are asking about your business. As your data mastery grows, continue to ask new questions to gain new insights into your business.

Thank you to Joseph Galarneau from Mezzobit, Dayna Sessa from Datanomy Group, Erica Dorn and Rushil Desai from Accion and Richard Holowczak from Baruch College (find more tips and data information on his blog) for sharing their knowledge.

How to Be Financially Fit in the New Year

Accion’s Loan Consultants work every day to help entrepreneurs reach their true potential by equipping them with the right kinds of financial tools and providing advice on business finances. We’ve compiled their advice on the best resolutions a business owner can make to be financially fit in 2014.

Cashflow“Every entrepreneur should ensure that they consistently manage and monitor their cash flow. This can be done by utilizing a simple cash flow statement in which you track your income and expense. Managing your cash flow will allow you to keep healthy accounts, assist you in recognizing trends in sales and expenses, analyze and keep track of your business’s seasonality, and ensure that you are spending responsibly and never more than the business can handle.”

-Gustavo Perez, Manager of Lending – New England

Download a cash flow worksheet on our website to help you get started.

budget“Create a budget for your income and how you will spend it. If you have a surplus, then you know that you can invest in other areas. However, if your income does not cover all of your expenses, then you will need to determine what you have to cut.”

-Vannessa Louchart, Loan Consultant – Miami

Check out our list of useful apps to create your own budget.

Retirement“As a business owner, it’s important to think about your retirement. Many business owners work and then cannot retire because they never contributed to a retirement plan. If you work all these years, you should ensure that you have something to show for it. Roth IRAs in particular are a great way to save.”

-Jose Made, Manager of Lending – New York

Learn about Roth IRAs.

Transparency“Work on developing financial transparency. Deposit all of your income and keep detailed records of said income, as well as your expenses. This will help you when you apply for credit and will help you to see if there are any expenses you can eliminate.”

-Kevin McLoughlin, Loan Consultant – New York

StickToIt“The hardest part of any resolution is sticking to it. You should treat improving financial well-being the same as you would exercising. Pay attention to finances on a consistent basis to make them strong. I read LearnVest frequently and I would recommend it to others. Personal and businesses finances can often go very hand in hand.”

-Erica Dorn, Manager of Lending – New York

The Accion Difference: The Reality of Online Payday Lenders

By Rachel Greenwald

In the spirit of investigative reporting, NPR correspondent Pam Flesser applied for an online payday loan on an advertized lending site, etaxloan.com. Despite filling out the application with a fake name, social security number, address, and fake bank account information, Pam immediately received a message stating that she had been pre-approved for a loan up to $750.

As it turns out, etaxloan.com is not a lender but a lead generator, a middle-man who collects sensitive information from loan seekers and charges a fee to lenders who want to access this information and attract this pool of potential borrowers. The market for these type of loans is huge –an estimated 12 million Americans take out paydays loan each year, generating $7.4 billion annually for this industry – and while many states like New York have enforced stricter regulation at the state-level on brick-and-mortar payday lenders, it remains difficult to impose restrictions on online lenders across state lines.

Though Pam did not take the loan, she received dozens of phone calls over the following months, some from companies offering a loan 10x what she requested and others from companies that were not even connected to etaxloan.com. As Benjamin Lawsky, the Superintendent of financial services for New York State, explains in the article, “Once you made that application, you basically sent up a red flag with them that you are someone in need of this money, and you need it on a short-term basis. That’s when the vultures come out.”

At Accion East, we never share unauthorized information with third parties, and our applicants work one-on-one with their personal Loan Consultant through the entire application and loan process.  Because our Loan Consultants are attentive and responsive, our clients receive tailored financial education and the tools they need to reach their fullest potential as entrepreneurs: personalized credit coaching, business planning assistance, and access to networking opportunities.

For many of the entrepreneurs we work with, limited credit prevents them from obtaining financing from traditional lenders like banks. Because Accion East reports to the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, our loans enable clients to establish and build their credit as they build their business so that they may one day qualify for loans from the traditional lenders that may have previously denied them.

If you’re interested in learning more about financing for your small business, contact Accion East today.